Sitting in my room, with tears streaming down my face, I couldn’t understand how we got here. How did we go from a loving, carefree couple to the type of people who would yell at each other? How did we lose ourselves in separation, and worry, and stress? I went over it all again and again in my head, and no matter how hard I searched for the answers, I couldn’t find them.
When Kyle joined the Army in 2013, I was so full of pride that I became blind to the reality of it. I didn’t truly understand what would happen to us after we went from seeing each other everyday, to not at all. I didn’t know what it was like to be separated for 3 months of B.M.T. and then 4 more for M.O.S. training (AIT). We always figured that basic training would be the hard part, and the rest would just fly by. But we were so wrong.
After B.M.T. was over and we were able to talk regularly, I had to get used to a schedule that I was very unfamiliar with. He couldn’t just talk to me whenever he wanted to, and often times when he was free to talk, I was in classes or asleep. We didn’t know how to adjust as quickly as we needed to, and more often than not, we learned the hard way.
The process didn’t end when he came home. It took a long time for us to forgive each other for the little jabs, and the many times that we used harsh words to express our frustrations. But eventually we did heal, and we promised ourselves that we wouldn’t ever let it hurt us that way again. We weren’t going to let separation and time beat us, because what we have is a lot stronger than that. And it won’t always be just training that separates us. Next time could be a deployment, which brings on challenges of its own.
So in order to make sure that we can handle anything that this life throws our way, we have to know each of the challenges that we’re facing when it comes to communication obstacles in the military. And it’s important that those that are new to this life begin to understand these obstacles as well. Here are some of the challenges that military families face:
Talking actually just means texting, most of the time
When your significant other is away for training or deployment, they often spend their time in classes, on duty, or in a dorm with other service members. It’s pretty rare for them to get some time alone, so that makes phone calls a bit difficult. Kyle called me every chance that he could, but it was hard to talk about the really important things when there were so many people listening on his end. I could always hear loud voices in the background, and it made it hard for me to share my deeper feelings with him.
Instead I would send them in lengthy text messages or Facebook messages. And there was always something hanging in the balance; something unspoken and impossible to understand because we couldn’t just look at each other when we said it. The most important thing is to consistently share your honest feelings about what you’re both going through. Be honest about the challenges that each of you face with this lack of efficient communication, so that you can find ways to better it.
Some things can’t be talked about
Before the military came into our lives, there wasn’t anything we couldn’t discuss. We shared everything with each other. Now our world is a bit different, and although we have learned to cope with it, there are still some challenges. I come home from work and I can share everything I did, everyone I spoke to, and all the little annoyances. But he can’t. He can’t tell me everything because it would put him and others in danger. It would break the oath that he swore to abide by.
Even if you can’t discuss every detail, there are plenty of ways that your service member can still integrate their family into their work life. You can still meet their coworkers, and be involved in the organizations that support the military. There are plenty of ways to make yourself a part of their life, even if you can’t talk about it all.
Petty fights turn into big blow outs
The stress and worry of being apart can bring out an ugly side of each person. Sometimes, I would hear the tone of my voice and the things I was saying, and I couldn’t even recognize myself. We would argue about the silliest things you could ever think of. And those little fights would just keep popping up until they turned into real problems. Eventually we had to reevaluate the way we were approaching these discussions, and how we could improve.
We learned to think carefully before we spoke to each other, and how even the little jabs, no matter how small, can really do some damage. We learned that despite how it seemed some times, the last thing that either of us wanted was to hurt one another. Looking back at all of it, we’re able to laugh at how silly it all was. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come, and the other military couples and families that have given us guidance along the way.
Work life is often brought into home life
When the first phase of training is over and life has settled down a bit, it can be hard to get used to the every day routine. No matter what your career is as a civilian, you face your own set of obstacles during the work day, and it’s hard not to bring those home with you. Service members face an extremely high level of stress in their careers, so it can be very difficult for them as well. It can cause a huge rift in your relationship because while you can tell them what’s making you upset or angry, sometimes they can’t.
Rather than discuss what’s going on, sometimes the stress is displayed as anger, and that anger is taken out on those at home. You both have to practice patience, and recognize that there are better ways to manage the stress of this life. Work together to find ways you can both vent without letting it take over. You can’t let it break you down, because at the end of the day, you’re a team that stands by each other and supports each other through any struggle. The military is a huge part of our lives, but it doesn’t need to be every part.
What are some communication challenges that you’ve faced in your own relationship?